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June 8, 1999
'Dead' return to fight for their rights
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
A group of 'dead' persons have staged a demonstration in Lucknow to prove that they were alive and kicking! They have formed a 'Union of the Dead'.
Ten such persons, who were declared 'dead' in the Uttar Pradesh government land records years ago, held a demonstration before the state legislative assembly in Lucknow yesterday.
Some of them said that they had been struggling for years to prove that the revenue records had been 'manipulated'.
''They also alleged that their property had been transferred in the names of scheming relatives with the connivance of the revenue department."
This fraud was rampant particularly in the highly feudal society of eastern Uttar Pradesh. In this area, according to 'Union of the Dead' chief Lal Bihari, ''a proper probe could bring out thousands of such cases''.
Lal Bihari had formed the union following his 18-year-long struggle. "In 1976, some of my cousins colluded with the local land record officials to show me as 'dead'; for 18 years I had moved heaven and earth to prove the records wrong and eventually I succeeded in 1994," he told Rediff On The NeT.
Lal Bihari, who hails from Azamgarh in east UP, did everything possible under the sun to prove the official records wrong. "I even contested the parliamentary elections against two former prime ministers V P Singh and Rajiv Gandhi with the sole intention of convincing the authorities concerned that I was not dead," he said.
He even went to the extent of resorting to disobedience in the state legislative assembly where he flung pamphlets to draw the attention of the law-makers, but to no avail. "In 1994, then Azamgarh district magistrate Hausla Parsad Verma declared me as 'alive'," he added.
Having failed in his untiring efforts to get the 'guilty' punished, Bihari chose to take the issue to the streets by mobilising others who had been victims of similar manipulations.
Thus, at yesterday's demonstration, there was 80-year-old Jhulari Devi, who had been fighting for 25 years to prove that she was 'not dead'.
"Soon after the death of my husband, 25 years ago, some of my family members got the land records forged to show that I was 'dead'. They took my property (less than an acre of agricultural land). But I have yet to prove that I am alive," she said, wondering if she would succeed in her lifetime.
Maha Prasad had struggled for 15 years without success in getting the records corrected. Interestingly, he was posted as police constable in Lucknow itself though the records described him as 'dead'. He retired from the department in 1985 and continued to draw his pension from the official exchequer until his actual death in 1994. But what the records were not 'corrected'.
His son Prakash came down all the way from Manu district to participate in the demonstration. "The land taken away from my father is yet to be returned to us because of the incorrect records, " he lamented.
Among the others present were Sundari Devi from Kanpur, Ansar Ahmad, Sewak Yadav, Nukku Yadav and Ram Raj from Azamgarh.
After a day-long demonstration, they are now seeking an audience with the state governor. They have sought a special probe into "this racket involving systematic manipulation of revenue records to deprive simple village folk of their legitimate rights".
They also sought "action against those involved in this fraud'' and security for the victims who have often been threatened with dire consequences for daring to expose the culprits.
Lal Bihari said most of the victims were poor, helpless people, including a large number of widows. "There is none to listen to their woes," he said.
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